The coolest spots in Seminyak, Ubud and beyond
Discover cool cafés, stunning beaches, local designers, gorgeous boutiques and the best dining with this guide to Bali…
Where to Stay:
Seminyak is one of the most stylish spots in Bali. With an international vibe, you will find a beautiful Indonesian restaurant opposite a chic French designer’s boutique, set against a backdrop of paddy fields. The food scene in Seminyak is first-class with many renowned chefs established there. What’s more, there is an abundance of beach bars and clubs to dance the night away in. Be warned – traffic is heavy and the hustle and bustle can be full on.
The ‘Bukit’ – as it is dubbed, is known for its surf. Hotspots here include Uluwatu (amazing surf), Bingin (stunning beaches) and Jimbaran (traditional fish markets) – all with their own charm. Stay in this neck of the woods if you are happy to spend your days on the beach with tousled salty surf hair, a Bintang beer in hand watching the sun go down. It doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Surrounded by lush, tropical greenery and deemed Bali’s spiritual epicentre, this area has long attracted master yogis, healthy eaters and culture fanatics. With a burgeoning culinary scene and home to traditional craftsmen, Ubud is the perfect tranquil spot to head to for a proper detox.
If Seminyak sounds too crazy, decamp at Canggu, a short 20-minute drive from Seminyak. With a casual vibe, this neighbourhood is less touristy and more ‘homey’: expats and locals alike have made the area home. Organic cafés, hipster coffee bars and creativity are the order of the day here.
Where to Eat and Drink:
No trip to Bali is complete without a visit to Potato Head Beach Club. Yes – one-and-the same brand as Potato Head Hong Kong. An institution in Seminyak, prop up on the bar in the stunning infinity pool, sip on creative homemade cocktails or chow down on delicious Indonesian food for the perfect day in the sun.
Sassy tip: Make sure you arrive before 11am to get a good spot and set yourself up for the day.
Prepare to be assaulted by the colours, the music and the frozen Margaritas at Motel Mexicola. Think bold, bright and beautiful as you step into this crazy Mexican-themed restaurant. While this place is buzzing all week long, things really get wild on a Friday and Saturday night. Grab your gals and head here to celebrate – prepare to be dancing on tables before your dessert arrives.
Sassy tip: The set menu is amazing value for money and makes life much easier.
La Lucciola (my all time fave) is set on the beach in a gorgeous bamboo built structure with a thatched roof. Think palm trees swaying in the wind, a stretch of sandy beach in front of the restaurant and waves lapping in the background. We often head here for sundowner rosé and Italian pasta.
Mamasan serves fun street-food inspired dishes with a twist. The restaurant is set in an old-school style warehouse with sleek lines and leather chesterfields. The restaurant is always busy with a glam ambience. Start with the Duck and Chili Shanghai dumplings – this dish is divine.
Sassy tip: If the downstairs restaurant is fully booked, ask to be seated in the cocktail lounge upstairs where no reservations are needed.
Step through the leafy entrance into an enchanting Brazilian-inspired club – in a garden. Make your way through the maze like passages and seek out different styled rooms. This is a great drinking and dancing den to head to when you’ve finished dinner.
Metis is the destination restaurant to celebrate at. Serving up fine dining style French food against a backdrop of stunning paddy field and a large lily pond, this is one fancy restaurant.
Sassy tip: Make sure you leave space for dessert – it’s amazing
A relatively new restaurant on the Bali scene, Saigon Street pays homage to classic and regional Vietnamese dishes with an exciting twist. We like to start with a bespoke cocktail and then gorge on the light sharing dishes. Make sure you try something from the wrap and roll bar, along with some of the bigger dishes – Wok Fried Prawns with mountain spices, spring onion and bamboo shoots is a winner.
Sarong is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Seminyak. Offering diners two areas to eat in – the stunning outdoor leafy lounge area or the thatch roofed indoor dining room – the menu features Indonesian street-food with a fine dining twist. We recommend the eight-hour slow braised shredded beef stew or the Bebek Madura to experience real Balinese flavours.
With unparalleled 360-degree views, Rock Bar is one of the best spots to watch the sunset. Set on the side of a cliff, the bar offers delicious cocktails, dramatic views and moreish nibbles.
Sassy tip: Get there early to avoid queues – we mean 4pm early. Trust us!
Locavore has a really unique concept that has put it on the map for many regional chefs – innovative European dishes using good quality local Balinese ingredients. The menu changes regularly, celebrating local farmers, fishermen and artisans. While it is on the more expensive side, we can vouch that it’s worth every penny.
With exposed walls, a speakeasy ambience and an extensive list of craft cocktails, this is the perfect choice for a post dinner cocktail.
Single Fin is renowned for its Sunday parties, featuring live bands and DJ’s, and is the ultimate surfers hangout during the week. With views over the famous surf and brimming with surfer dudes, this is a top spot to head to with the girls.
Sassy tip: If you’re thinking of heading for the Sunday party, email ahead to book a table – it gets very busy.
For a chilled and more local evening, head to Jimbaran Bay for seafood on the beach. Haggle with the stall owners, and enjoy a feast of freshly caught seafood as the sun sets over the lapping waves.
The walls are full of colour, the food is fresh, the ambience is buzzing, the drinks are delicious and the whole experience is accompanied by a playlist of rock and roll. If you’re a tequila fan, look out for its Jalapeno-infused tequila and the Margaritas.
La Plancha is a casual sundowner spot for those that don’t want to shower or change after a day at the beach. With splashes of colour, a menu of tasty Spanish cuisine and large beanbags, sip on a Bintang and watch as the sky turns from day to dusk.
Finns is an uber cool hangout in Canggu. Lounge by the pool, listen to laid-back tunes and spend the day sunning with a cocktail in hand. We couldn’t think of anything better.
Pica is a teeny tiny restaurant in Ubud serving South American favourites. The menu is small featuring fresh ingredients and it’s all about sharing here. Enjoy the Ceviche as you watch the talented kitchen team whip up a storm in the open kitchen.
This popular Canggu hangout is known for its great brunch offering. Using fresh ingredients and superfoods, the team at Milk and Madu aims to kick-start mornings the right way. If you head there later in the day, try one of its signature pizzas – you won’t be disappointed.
If you’re craving healthy vegan food, head to Alchemy. With a homely vibe, Alchemy features a salad bar with an array of raw greens, raw sushi rolls, guilt-free desserts and delicious fresh juices. We recommend the Onion Bread and Kale Chips with a serving of Cashew Cream Cheese or the amazing raw cheesecake.
If you’re feeling a bit dusty from your night out in Seminyak, head over to Sisterfields Café for an Australian breakfast. Bringing a love of good food and great coffee to Bali, Sisterfields features all of the breakfast classics while using quality ingredients.
Where to Shop:
A gem amidst Bali’s international and local boutiques, the clothes are luxurious and alluring with intricate handiwork and beaded embellishments – think glamorous beach chic.
Sassy tip: Don’t forget to go through its jewelry line for delicate and unique pieces.
You won’t be able to go into this boutique without spending your entire holiday budget. Designed with a Parisian ‘Brougeois Boheme’ in mind, the clothes come in chic, earthy tones and are the perfect beach chic dresses. While on the expensive side for Bali, the stunning floaty dresses are gorgeously feminine and complement any wardrobe – so they’re worth every penny (or so we tell ourselves).
Think bohemian chic with silks, crêpe and chiffon beckoning you in. The prints are inspired by destinations around the world – Marrakech, Brazil and India – to name a few, and you’ll find it very hard to leave the store without a shopping bag in hand.
We also can’t leave Souk empty handed. Souk’s vast show room is jam-packed with treasures. Think Panama hats, gorgeous bikinis, wicker baskets and many more essentials.
Other not-to-be-missed clothing boutiques include: Natasha Gan for high-end fashion, Joy Jewellry for colourful bracelets and Auguste Boutique for floaty numbers.
If you’re decorating your home, this is a must-visit. Rainbow Bali features chandeliers, bed frames, pineapple-themed pieces, homeware and much more in brightly coloured, fashionable wrought-iron. I’m still trying to work out where I could fit a piece in my Hong Kong shoe box.
It’s difficult to walk past Bungalow without stepping in to admire its cushions, throws, jewellery, scarves and knick-knacks. Grab a coffee from their café area and browse away…
Some of the best homeware stores can also be found on Jalan Raya Kerobokan, including Bomba for funky homeware, My Island Home for beautiful rattan furniture, D2 Detail Deco for beach-themed homeware and Satunama for the best collection of candles on the island.
Things to Do:
Bali has quickly become a yoga mecca, and is now one of the preferred destinations for yogis in the region. There are lots of great places to practice but we recommend: The Yoga Barn, one of Bali’s most popular spots; Power of Now for the yogi that wants to practice by the sea; Shankari’s Yoga Retreat for stunning views of black sandy beaches; Samadi for the more community-minded yogis and Samanvaya for those looking to really escape from it all.
While we’d usually discourage working while on holiday, if you do have to check those pesky emails or you’re one of the lucky ones that can work from anywhere, head to Hubud, a co-working space set in tropical surroundings.
Jimbaran Fish Market
Kedonganan Fish Market – known as Jimbaran Fish Market due to its proximity to Jimbaran Bay, is Bali’s main seaside market place. At the market you can witness fishermen unloading their nets and get first dibs on some of the best catches. The market opens at dawn and the hustle and bustle is almost immediate – get there early!
Sassy tip: Hang around and eat at one of Jimbaran Bay’s many seafood restaurants – you know the fish is fresh!
This is one of the oldest temples on the island and the setting is one of the most special things about it. Built on a cliff, the temple affords divine views to visitors.
Sassy tip: bring along a sarong to cover shoulders / legs when you enter
If you’re an adventurer and get easily distracted sitting on the beach, head North to Mount Batur and trek up the 1,700 metre active volcano. The journey from Ubud takes about an hour, and once there, you can take a leisurely walk up to the top to enjoy the stunning views across Mount Batur.
Sassy tip: Head up for sunrise to enjoy an even more magical view
Read more: Asia’s Best Volcano Hikes
Lake Batur Temple
Once you’ve climbed Mount Batur, head down into the deep crater lake and visit the temple called Pura Segara Lake Batur. Not on the main tourist trail, this is one of the more peaceful activities to do in Bali.
Batubulan Stone Carving Village
Batubulan is the main stone carving village, just south of Ubud. These stone carvings are created for Balinese homes and temples, rather than the tourist market, but it’s still really special to be able to see the master carvers at work.
Celuk Silver Village
If you’re a serious jewellery fan, a visit to Celuk – the centre for silversmiths – is a must. The pieces of silverwork here are some of the best quality items you will find on the island – and it’s not limited to jewellery, you can also find stunning pieces of homeware and decorative items with silver weaved in.
This is a really unique day out – head over to the specialist ‘Bone Carving’ village to see how the popular bull and buffalo skin carvings seen in shops across Asia are made. Meet the bone carvers and support the local artisans.
Sassy tip: Most of the bone carvers do custom orders – explain to them what you’re looking for and they’ll do their best to create it for you
Featured image credited to Bali-Indonesia.com, all other images sourced via respective Facebook pages and businesses